CSUN men’s volleyball fails to close out UCLA in five sets

Victor Corona

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The Matadors lose to the Bruins in five sets on Friday night at Pauley Pavillion. The Bruins completed the season sweep of the Matadors. Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/ Staff Photographer

WESTWOOD, Calif. — Looking to avenge an earlier loss in the season to No. 6 UCLA, No. 1 CSUN lost a heartbreaking 3-2 match (30-27, 30-28, 28-30, 14-30, 12-15) to the Bruins Friday night at Pauley Pavilion after being up two sets to none.

Senior middle blocker Kevin McKniff had an outstanding hitting night with 13 kills on 14 swings. Fellow senior Theo Edwards led the Matadors in kills with 14, while senior middle blocker Jacek Ratajczak finished with 11.

“We got too comfortable with our lead and we didn’t come out really focused after the second set,” McKniff said.

Unlike their previous match at the Matadome, where the Matadors (11-4, 8-4 MPSF) were never in any of the sets and were eventually swept by the Bruins (9-6, 8-4 MPSF), they began Friday’s match by getting out to a 28-19 lead. UCLA made it tough late in the frame with a 7-1 spurt that cut the Matador advantage to 29-27, but a service error that went long by Bruin Dylan Bowermaster gave CSUN a 30-27 set win.

The Matadors fell behind 3-0 early in the second set and eventually fought back to tie the score at eight on a kill by Ratajczak. The Bruins regained the advantage on the next point and eventually stretched their lead to as many as five (20-15) before the Matadors used a 15-8 run to close the frame and steal the second set 30-28.

CSUN looked poised in the third set to avenge its sweep to the Bruins by giving them a little taste of their own medicine at Pauley Pavilion. The set turned out to be the best frame of the night with 15 ties and four lead changes. The Bruins seemed to pull away from the Matadors late in the set with a 5-1 run that put them up 26-22. CSUN countered with a 5-1 run of its own to tie the game at 27. UCLA went on to score three of the next four points to put the set away 30-28 and stay alive in the match.

“We lost the energy and a lot of calls didn’t go our way,” Edwards said regarding what happened to the Matadors after the second set. “There were a lot balls that were in, that the refs were not making good calls on that took the moral out of the team but to tell you the truth we lost our rhythm.”

The fourth set turned ugly for the Matadors early as they fell behind 10-2. Head coach Jeff Campbell began resting some of his starters once the score got out of hand. The Bruins went on to win the frame by 17 points at 30-13.

“I thought coach Campbell did the right thing in the fourth set in resting his starters,” UCLA head coach Al Scates said. “ I know that’s what he did against SC in the fifth setter they had and they came back and won that one so I had to tell the our guys not to let down.”

The Matadors were once again playing from behind, trailing 8-5 after the teams switched sides in the fifth set. A late comeback by the Matadors fell short on a kill by Bruin setter Kyle Caldwell, who put away a kill to give UCLA a 15-12 set win.

“That was a game that we had and we should have won,” Edwards said. “To be honest…I felt a chemistry on the team that I haven’t felt in a long time. I haven’t felt that since Stanford on the road trip and I feel really good about this loss as bad as it might seem.”